Cameron McMaster croft@eci.co.za
Wed, 04 Sep 2002 01:00:09 PDT
Your called for more Haemanthus notes!  I sent these notes to a bulb forum a
long time ago, so perhaps they can be repeated here.  Feel free to use any
of the info on your web page.

 In our part of the Eastern Cape, there are five recognised species of
Haemanthus, the most widespread being H. albiflos which is amazingly
adaptive.  It is equally at home in deep shade on forest floors, on rocky
sea shores exposed to salt spray, in coastal dune forest, on cliff faces in
hot river valleys where it clings in large clumps to crevasses in full sun
at times, and in shady places on high altitude inland mountain ranges.  An
interesting dwarf form with oval leaves not more than 5 cm long, occurs on
bushy hillsides in the Keiskamma River valley, just west of East London.  In
cultivation the leaves are slightly larger.

When new telephone lines were being put in at the coast, we picked
up a number of H. albiflos that had been uprooted.  We planted them under a
tree, where the leaves were frosted off in the first winter, but
subsequently they have retained their leaves even at -5C overnight.
Seedlings keep their leaves even at -2C overnight.  It seems that they are
more frost-hardy when the leaves have grown out in situ under cold
conditions.  Once when we picked some stems with green seeds and left them
in a box for a few weeks to ripen, some bulbils formed at the flower ends of
the stems, amongst the seed stalks.

H. montanus is found in small areas of poorly drained shallow soil over rock
slabs.  They grow in dense stands, the large cream flowers appearing in
midsummer, rapidly followed by two or three upright leaves.  The seeds ripen
in February and germinate within a month around the parent plants.  The
leaves dry off and blow away by the end of May when all signs of the bulb
population then vanish.  It adapts well to gardens and containers, and
despite its long dormancy from late autumn to midsummer, is an attractive
subject.  We grow them outdoors in raised (15 cm) beds, where they get
plenty of spring rain, but stay dormant!

H. humilis humilis has fairly round flat leaves and occurs in isolated
colonies on steep slopes between protective rocks.  It is extremely variable
with regard to size, the degree of hairiness and the colour of leaves and
flowers.  A colony in the Kei River valley growing under acacia trees in
semi shade, has small grey hairy leaves and cream flowers, while another
colony, growing in full shade on a south facing cliff less than 10km away,
has massive dark green leaves up to 50cm in diameter, almost hairless, and
gorgeous large deep pink flowers.    A leaf that we put in a plant press
surprised us after a month or two with a few (flattish!) bulbils that
developed in the press, having some space created by the thickness of the
leaf.  Another particularly dark pink form occurs in the Central Karoo in a
region with a rainfall of less than 300mm per annum and night temperatures
that can drop to -10°C in the winter. We found them growing under the
shelter of rocks near New Bethesda between Graaff Reinet and Middelburg.

The rare H. carneus is very closely related to H. humilis, the differences
being a looser, widely spreading umbel and stamens included well within the
perianth. The only colony we know of is in montane grassland near Somerset

 The most easterly occurence of H. coccineus (flowers autumn) that we know
of is in the Keiskamma River valley, growing amongst the dwarf H.
albiflos (flowers in winter, so they don't hybridize). They occur from here
in a summer rainfall region, through the winter rainfall region of the W. Cape and up to the arid regions of Namaqualand and Namibia, a range of  2000+ kilometers!  The flower stems can be reddish, or blotched with red. and the leaves have varying degrees of stripes on the underside especially.

Rhoda McMaster
Stutterheim,  E. Cape

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